One of the things about parenting is that you form some severe opinions about how the world works pretty quickly, especially when your three year old is talking about shooting guns. All of the half-baked, unformed, ethereal notions concerning morality manifest into rigid simplistic dogmas, like, "Keep your hands to yourself," and "Don't lie to me, kid." Abstract notions go out the window when you are A) in a rush and B) pissed off.
I've always been pretty moderate when it comes to firearms, but I can't be wishy-washy with a young mind, especially when it comes to something as potentially dangerous as this. Let me be clear: the issue is not with his curiosity, the problem is how I channel that towards a positive end.
Up until this point, he'd say something like "I shoot the bad guys," and I'd either ignore it, or treat it like Santa Claus, where I would shamefully hide the truth from my child because of social conventions. For some reason, some part of me thinks that giving him information about guns will somehow damage him, that there is an invisible line of age that he must cross, presumably around age ten when I can start to have "talks" with my kid about important issues.
So I spent all morning trying to figure out how I feel about gun control (since it's never really been an issue for me either way, since I can see both sides), and I found this passage from the DoJ of California:
"Talking to Children About Guns
Children are naturally curious about things they don't know about or think are "forbidden." When a child asks questions or begins to act out "gun play," you may want to address his or her curiosity by answering the questions as honestly and openly as possible. This will remove the mystery and reduce the natural curiosity. Also, it is important to remember to talk to children in a manner they can relate to and understand. This is very important, especially when teaching children about the difference between "real" and "make-believe." Let children know that, even though they may look the same, real guns are very different than toy guns. A real gun will hurt or kill someone who is shot."
Immediately I realize I've been going about it all wrong. If my kid was asking about rattlesnakes, I would know how to handle it. I would show him what they look like, explain to him why they are dangerous, and teach him what their proper environment is. I would play out with him exactly what the DoJ prescribes on the previous website, which in essence is "Don't touch it and go tell an adult." What works for rattlesnakes should work for guns, or for anything dangerous.
So I did. Liberal leanings be damned. I showed him what guns looked like, showed him what a bullet looked like, and explained to him the difference between real guns and fake. He understands that getting hit with a Nerf ball is fun, and getting hit with a real bullet means you die. (We've already had conversations about death, since I'm the official bug squisher, and the cats periodically leave us "presents".)
Then he said, "And when I grow up you can show me how to shoot a gun to shoot bad guys."
My leftist ideologies kicked into full gear at that point, and I said, "I don't shoot bad guys. Papa and Grandpa don't shoot bad guys. Uncle Mark doesn't shoot bad guys." He asked why Uncle Mark has shotguns. (I had told him Uncle Mark had them earlier.) I explained all about shooting ranges and clay pigeons. I explained that police officers shot bad guys, and that they have to go to school to do that.
Afterward, we played "Let's Pretend You Find a Real Gun," where I would put a pen in the other room, and he'd go find it. He'd then come and find me, saying, "Dada! I found a gun!"
I'd say, "Did you touch it?" and he'd say, "No!" and we'd yell "Yay!" Then I gave him a cookie.
I had a cookie too, since I think I dodged a bullet today.